Crosstalk: Signal to Noise Ratio
I thought of the perfect hint for that game!
“That game” was CrossTalk, a party game I had brought on the trip. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to someone I played this game with, either.
CrossTalk is a lot like Taboo or Catchphrase, but with a twist that demands nuance from the clue-giver. Much like the perfect retort in an argument comes to you about ten minutes after the argument ends, the careful crafting of clues in CrossTalk tends to linger in your mind.
CrossTalk is a clue-giving party game for 4+ players created by Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden and published by Nauvoo Games. Its subtitle, “The Party Game of Subtle Conversation”, could not be more accurate.
The difference in CrossTalk is evident from the beginning. Among the normal fare for a clue game (cards, timer, etc) are some interesting things inside the box: two “private clue” white boards, six “private chat” white boards, two “hint” white boards, and markers for the players.
The group breaks into two teams; the black team and the blue team. Each team assigns their own clue-giver that changes with each round. The clue-givers draw a single card from a word/phrase deck and roll a six-sided die to choose the word for the round. Both teams need to guess the same word or phrase.
Each clue-giver writes a single word on their private clue board and shares it with their team. Standard clue rules apply: no proper nouns, English only, etc.
Once the private clues are shared, one of the clue-givers writes a public clue on the public clue board. For the sake of our example, let’s say the black team’s clue-giver writes first. Here’s where it gets interesting. The *blue* team gets to make a guess of the secret word, based on the private clue their clue-giver provided and the public clue of the black team’s clue-giver.
If the blue team is able to guess the word, they get a point. If not, the blue team’s clue-giver writes a public clue, and the black team gets a chance to guess.
This back-and-forth continues for four rounds or until the word or phrase is guessed. The first team to five correct guesses wins!
This would be enough to already make CrossTalk unique, but the hint boards add an extra dynamic as well. Once per round, the hint giver can fill out the private hint board and share it with their team. The board has a series of basic instructions on how to relate the public clues and guesses together. These could include emphasizing terms, telling their team to ignore clues, and more. You can see the full list in the hint board image to the right.
It seems almost strange to talk about strategy in a clue-giving game, but CrossTalk has enough elements that sound strategy can make a difference. The private clues offer clue-givers the opportunity to provide very obscure or unusual public clues. Like a parable, this can be necessary to hide the true meaning of the hint that is difficult to understand without the “answer key” of the private clue.
The hint boards offer another layer of strategy. Clue-givers can offer completely nonsensical clues and tell their team to ignore them in an attempt to throw the other team off.
Ultimately, CrossTalk is a party game in a tried-and-true formula of hint giving with restrictions. From my perspective it is the best implementation of the genre available. The dynamic of the other team guessing before a team can work with their own clue-giver forces the clue-giver to be as guarded as possible. This keeps the “waiting” team from disengaging with the game, which is a problem with most other conventional games of this type.
The words and phrases on the cards seemed to alternate between really difficult and really easy which was a little frustrating, but those times when the clues hit the right level of difficulty felt really good. The cards are double sided, but we couldn’t tell the difference between the two sides from a difficulty level.
The game is rated 10+, which feels about right. The mechanics of the game are certainly manageable by a younger age range, but the words and phrases require domain knowledge of an older child or an adult. An alternate (perhaps expansion) set of cards targeted at a younger age would be welcome.
CrossTalk forces people to think differently, which I really enjoy. It encourages outside-the-box approaches to giving hints. Because of the need for veiled hints, when connections are made between the hint giver and the team it feels fantastic. Unfortunately, it does suffer from some of the same trappings of other games in the genre. If two players know each other really well, they can make a lot of inside references that nobody else would understand. Be careful how you choose your teams to avoid an unfair advantage.
The Family Gamers received a review copy of CrossTalk: The Party Game of Subtle Conversation from Nauvoo Games for review.
CrossTalk: The Party Game of Subtle Conversation
Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 4-8+
Playtime: 30 minutes